On Christmas 2017 we made our decision. We’ll end our Chicago adventure earlier as planned and move back to Berlin. Why? One reason is that my husband’s devision was shut down. He could have started in another division, but it’s all very unclear (short: it’s chaotic). I’m exhausted by too much loneliness with the kid, the superficial friendliness of many Americans, I miss my friends and family and yes… I miss my work in Germany (which comes as a surprise to me).
We return from Germany to Chicago after New Year’s Eve. The goodbye is becoming more definite. My husband’s employer is informed, they’are (hopefully) starting all processes to prepare our move.
I’m biking through the city. Waiting for regret, doubt, sadness. But the city won’t give me hard time. The streets are white, in the morning I thought for a moment it was snow. A thick layer of de-icing salt covers the streets, eats through my cogs and geards, ruins the rims. The car drivers don’t see me. I got at least two “almost-accidents”, every time I race through the city. Drivers turn without looking or they don’t want to brake for me, although they’re required by “State Law” (nice neon sign). Then starts the rain. SUVs are rushing through the puddles, showering me with dirty water. I curse them, now in English as well. In such a shitty weather I’m pretty sure that no maniac with a gun will stop to fight with me.
With a heavy heart I’m informing the yoga studios that I’ll move away very soon. The reaction is – different from what I expected. The studio owner who was always total enthusiastic about me, who said I was “such an awesome addition to the studio” reacts after two days. The other one who said it had “klicked” immediately the first time I entered one of her classes, responds only that it’s sad that I’m leaving so soon because she has to cover my classes. But I receive very caring emails by the other two studios. That lifts me up a little bit.
I continue teaching classes, race through mud and snow by bike. I’m booked for two classes at Hilltop studio where I started teaching in December. After receiving the conctract I considered seriously if I really wanted to work there. There is no base amount per class, you’re only paid depending on the amount of students in your class. Based on a difficult percentage model which relates to the student’s contract. But I really wanted to have more regular classes, so I signed. Now I’m there, waiting. One student comes to “slow flow”. I teach her a private class. She is unconcentrated and doesn’t like following my instructions to hold certain poses for a longer time. No one arrives for “Power flow”. After 15 minutes of waiting I lock the studio. With traveling time, Yoga class plus waiting time I worked two hours and got $5. $2,50 per hour. My mood is darkening.
I also have to settle my claims with my third job. In December I saw a sign that they’re looking for baristas at “Maison Marcel”, a french café. The french owner invited me for an interview. One hour after the scheduled time he arrived. I asked him which shifts he needed to be covered but he stayed vague about that. We scheduled some shifts for me. On Saturday I started at 7am. The boss was already there. Amber, the chef barista, showed me around. I liked working at a café again. Behind my coffee station the french baker rolled croissant dough. Amber was very thorough, we talked about all coffee specialities and their ingredients. Iced Coffee? Wait, it’s -5°C and people are drinking Iced Coffee? Yes, exactly, I would see by myself later on. I was scheduled until 9am. Rodrigo, the co-owner, asked me if I could stay longer. From 10am on the business took really of, I worked nonstop. The most annoying thing were the different milk varieties. Full fat milk, steam it, rinse the jug, steam almond milk, rinse the jug. The list of drinks became longer and longer. Rodrigo eyed over my shoulder and called the next drink. I put ready-made drinks on the counter, called “cappuccino” or “drip” but my voice couldn’t cut through the noise. So the drinks stayed there and became cold. A second barista, James, joined me at the machine. It was his first shift as well. At 12, after 50-60 drinks, I was finally done.
The next shift was on Wednesday. It was totally calm. I could practice steaming milk with Amber and experiment with the dosage of the espresso grinder.
The next shift was scheduled for Friday. On Thursday evening I got a text from the french owner that I don’t need to come, they would try somebody else. He would get back to me about next week. But I didn’t get a message. I asked him if they still want me to work there. He answered my restricted availabilty was the problem. I clinched my fists. How about telling me in the first interview how many hours you expect a barista to work there? And he isn’t even an American, who – I knew by now – avoid honest talks. I went to the café on the weekend and talked to him. Finally, he told me I would have to work five hours per week to be hired. I said that wasn’t possible for me. We agreed that I would call him after New Year, in case anything changed. After New Year I wrote him that I’ll move back to Germany and that I expect him to pay my outstanding wages. Every week I renewed this request.
Some days before our flight back I go to the café. The shabby chic, which I liked so much at the beginning, seems tacky and boring. Grudgingly he pays me in cash. Unfortunately, I didn’t agree on an hourly wage with him before I started working, so I couldn’t claim for more than the base salary. Of course, he didn’t give me my share of the tips. Luckily, Amber gave me half of the tips after one of the shifts. I was pissed. Constantly, I paid at restaurants and cafés extraordinary tips which were considered “normal” in the US and now that I have worked in the sector I didn’t even get my share of them back…
The cold and wet winter is depressing and consumes all my energy. My husband proposes flying to Mexico. We leave on the next day. (Did I ever tell you that he’s a man who likes turning ideas into reality immediately?) We fly to Cancun. On the airplane the Americans in front of us order Cranberry Wodka directly after take-off at 11am. Shortly before the landing, after 3,5 flight hours, they order another round. We visit the maya ruins in Tulum located at the wonderful Caribbean Sea. It’ too crowded. Fat Mexican kids swarm around us. Drunk, red-faced Americans crawl moaning the few steps down to the sea. The sea is warm and not too salty. And nobody stops me as I continue swimming towards the open sea (contrary to the Land of the Free). The warm sun, the delicious mexican food and the nice, very child friendly Mexicans cheer me up.
The move out at the end of January 2018 is chaotic. There seem to be 100 people involved, companies, sub-companies, that can’t set a date, so that we can’t book our flights back. Suddenly, they inform us that the packing will start on the next day.
I’m down in a deep, dark depression hole and totally overwhelmed with packing. Spontaneously, I escape to Madison, Wisconsin, with the rental car. Sitting in my hotel room, staring at the frozen lake.
We spend the last two nights in Chicago in an AirBnB apartment in an apartment tower on the Gold Coast, close to Lake Michigan. Stormy, cold walks at the lake are the right thing to do to say goodbye to Chicago. They reflect my relationship with that city: I like the city, especially the huge lake with its incredible vastness, but I can’t stand the cold that I couldn’t fathom, which always creeped into me and made me numb and sad.
As soon as I sit on the airplane, I order an IPA. A little bit of relaxation – at least until I have to find my son’s Puppi which hid itself inbetween the seats. In Berlin-Tegel: chaos, as usual. Nevertheless, I’m happy: I’m back in Berlin.